Galapagos brings me to tears (part 2)

by Kim on September 4, 2012 · 56 comments

Read part one about our time in the Galapagos Islands here.

Galapagos Day 3- Espanola Island

Our days shape into routine. Breakfast at 7:15 a.m., two hours of hiking, then back to the boat to sail to our next destination. Lunch. More hiking. Snorkeling. Return to the boat to relax and read. Dinner.

Our seasickness has disappeared, thankfully.

Today we start off with a two-hour hike on Espanola to see iguanas, albatross and blue-footed boobies. The shoreline is stunning, the beach is pure white and the water is an unbelievable aqua marine. The sea is so clear I can see whole schools of fish darting between rocks many meters below.

We head to Sea Lion Beach where dozens of sea lions lie in the sand, warming themselves in the morning sun. They pay us no mind, barely stirring as we walk by. 

Hanging out with the sea lions

Beautiful Galapagos beach

After lunch we go snorkeling at a spot where sharks are commonly spotted. At first we see nothing but then, below us, three white-tipped sharks emerge from beneath an underwater rock overhang. SHARK! someone yells, and before I even know it I find myself frantically swimming towards them. If someone would’ve told me that one day I’d find myself deep in the ocean swimming after sharks I’d have told them they were crazy. And yet, there I was. 

Back on the boat I sit on the top deck watching the birds fly by. My mind wanders.

In one sense I can feel myself shifting to a slower, calmer pace of life. In the three months since Brian and I left home I have noticed subtle changes in both of us. We laugh more, worry less, and find ourselves continuously humbled by how much we don’t know. Traveling does this to you. 

Yet, on the other hand, I am constantly thinking about tomorrow. I think about how long we’ll be able to do this and what will happen when we get back. I wonder where we will live and what we will do. I know that traveling makes me happy but I don’t yet know how to sustain it. It scares me, the thought of losing this freedom.  The thought of stopping before I’m ready to stop.

One thing I hope to learn while we travel is how to live in the moment. I have always been terrible at this. But each day I find myself in these incredible situations and I want to enjoy them completely. I don’t want tomorrow’s worries to cast a shadow on today. I want to be all the way here, right where I am, now.

Galapagos Day 4- San Cristobal Island

After hiking, snorkeling and wildlife viewing we head to the town of San Cristobal where we visit the Galapagos National Park Interpretive Center. Afterwards we’re released to walk the town for a few hours. 

Brian and I set off with Debbie and Niels, the Dutch couple. The village is small and it appears to be the off-season. Most of the shops are closed. We see Laura and Karen, the two Australian girls, sitting at a picnic table in front of a restaurant with our guide. They are drinking cerveza and eating plantains y queso. We sit to join them. Soon, the rest of our group wanders by.

The tiny town of San Cristobal

Before long all sixteen of our boat-mates are sipping beer and telling jokes. We are in the center of town and a children’s dance rehearsal begins on the outdoor stage across from where we sit. Parents crowd around snapping photos. It is a familiar scene, we could be anywhere, but where we are is on a tiny island off the coast of Ecuador, downing beers with people from all over the world. The sun is setting on us and I feel giddy with joy. I don’t want to be anywhere else.

An outdoor dance recital on San Cristobal

Back on the boat we learn that it is one of the crew member’s birthdays and that there will be a small fiesta after dinner.

We sit in the main cabin and sing feliz cumpleanos to Juan. Someone brings a pitcher of mojitos from the kitchen. A crewmember moves the coffee table and rolls up the rug and suddenly dance music is blasting from the television.

We dance and dance, crowded into the tiny cabin, the boat rocks side to side. I don’t know how to salsa but I am spinning around the floor with Sebastian, who drives the dingy, and I follow his lead. These men know how to dance and they take such joy in it. I try my best to just let go. What else can I do? I throw my head back and laugh, swing my hips as we twirl around the room. The party lasts for hours. 

Galapagos Day 5- Santa Fe, Santa Cruz, and North Seymour Islands

The most incredible thing happens today. We are moving between islands in the late afternoon, most of us are on the top deck sunning and reading. Our guide climbs the stairs and yells at us GET UP! DOLPHINS! and out on the horizon we see water, like geysers, shooting up through blowholes.

We rush to the bow of the ship and as we pull near we see that the animals aren’t dolphins at all but a pod of pilot whales.

The whales, there are at least ten of them, swim right up to the boat. We are watching, captivated, leaning over the bow. The whales are so close that, when they surface, we are sprayed with the water from their blowholes.

It is obvious that these majestic animals know exactly what they are doing. They know we are here and they have come to greet us. For five minutes they swim from one side of the ship to the other. Each time they surface we cheer. There are Italians, Ecuadorians, Australians, Dutch and Americans on the boat and, right now, there is a common language among. It is one of awe and joy. Magnifico, I hear an Italian say. Certainly, it is.

The only picture I have of us watching the whales. Sorry for the poor quality but you can just make out the whales in front of the boat.

There is a kindness about these animals, an energy, I can feel it as surely as I can feel the sun warming my face. We are visiting their home and they have come to welcome us. They’ve come to say hello. It is the most amazing form of communication I have ever experienced with another species.

Before I left home a friend wrote to me a quote by Albert Camus: Live to the point of tears. The whales surface, blow, and then swim away for the final time. I wipe the tears away from my eyes and know I am doing just that. I hear one of the Italian men behind me. He is saying in English, his accent heavy, Thank you. Thank you. Everyone is clapping.

When we are sure that the whales have left us we disperse around the boat once again. Our guide finds me in the corridor and asks what I thought of the experience. Awesome, I say. It is perhaps the first time that I have used the word correctly. 

To be continued…

Read part 3 about our time in the Galapagos Islands here.

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

D.J. - The World of Deej September 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

My wife went to the Galapagos shortly after we started dating, and I know she’d say it changed her life. I still have a tshirt she brought me that says “I <3 Boobies" :)

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:49 am

Haha, yep, those shirts are everywhere… do you still wear yours? ;)

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Sharlyn September 4, 2012 at 5:42 pm

What a heartfelt post. I cried right along with you. Your experiences and feelings hit a note with me. I feel as though I’m right there with you, seeing what you see and experiencing what you do, and I don’t want it to end either. You have such a way of writing that it just pulls me into your adventures and I’m so grateful for that. It’s not often that I find a blog that can capture me like that. It’s very refreshing. Drink in every ounce of every day and don’t worry about the next one. And thank you for sharing your wonderful experiences with all of us.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:50 am

Sharyln, it is the highest compliment that you feel you are right there with me- it’s what I always hope to convey. Thank you for your kind words… it’s an honor to share my experiences with you.

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Patti September 4, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Awesome! It’s the right word.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:51 am

Haha, it certainly is.

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) September 4, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Kim, this was a great post for many reasons, but I wanted to let you know that the bit you wrote about learning to live in the moment really resonated with me. Our first month of travel has had some wonderful moments, but it has also been a struggle at time as I learn to navigate this new life I have carved out for myself and find myself dealing with feelings and frustrations I have not seen in a while. But the one thing I want to get out of this trip is the ability to take each day as it comes, and truly be present for it, without leapfrogging into the future and the uncertainty that brings. I hope that as we continue this journey, you and I will gain that ability!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:53 am

Steph, it really seems like we are going through this process at the same time and having many of the same feelings… I hope that we both gain a little clarity and wisdom. I think some of it is as simple as learning to slow down and be comfortable with that. It’s a struggle to be in the moment and it takes work I know… but I will continue to work on it. XXX

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Kirsten Lodge September 4, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Hi Kim

I, too, made a last minute decision to visit Galapagos when I was in South America. Two years later and I still believe it was the best decision of my trip. When in doubt, do it, I reckon. A friend once said to me “what will you remember? The trip or how much it cost?” Galapagos moved me to tears too. We were lucky enough to see two albatrosses come together after being apart for 6 months. It was the most romantic thing ever. I’m so happy that you got to experience such a wonderful place. Good for you!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:54 am

YES–>when in doubt, do it!! It’s great advice that your friend gave you. I’m so glad we decided to go. That story about seeing the albatrosses come together is AMAZING. Wow.

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Erica September 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm

I really relate to your worry about how to sustain this life of travel. We have the same and we have not even left yet. But you can be sure that you know how to capture your audience. I am sure you will be able to write a book and sell thousands (millions?) of them! You will find your destiny. In the mean time.. Enjoy! Live the moment!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:55 am

Yayayaya- thanks Erica :) My biggest dream in life is to write a book. Someday I will. Thank you :)

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Sunee September 4, 2012 at 11:53 pm

I had goosebumps when I read the part about the whales. They are indeed beautiful, majestic creatures and it’s wonderful that you had the chance to meet them on their own turf.

Sounds like you’re having an amazing time so far. Galapagos is now also on my to-do list :)

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:55 am

Sunee, it was so incredibly amazing. Unreal! I loved every second of that experience and, really, all of my time in the Galapagos.

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Margaret September 5, 2012 at 3:33 am

Inspiring stuff Kim. Looking forward to the next installment.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:56 am

Thanks Margaret.

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Sarah Somewhere September 5, 2012 at 3:39 am

Awesome indeed! And I loved the whale-watching photo, every one leaning out, captivated. Those moments of awe are so precious, entirely yours and unique to that one precious moment with your new friends. Truly beautiful xxx

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:56 am

It was wonderful… and I loved that we all had that unique, one-of-a-kind experience together. It made it even more special.

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Deborah September 5, 2012 at 5:11 am

This is so beautiful, Kim! I was in tears when I finished reading. I’m so grateful to you for sharing your adventures with all of us.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:57 am

Thanks Deborah. I am so happy to do it.

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KimOlsonPhoto September 5, 2012 at 6:31 am

I couldn’t agree more about needing to fully be in the moment. I think so many of us get caught up in either planning for the future or reliving the past that we completely forget to just enjoy the *now*.

And that’s one of the best things about travel. It does seem to help you really relish the present experiences rather than just waiting for the next.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:57 am

Kim, I agree. I am finding that travel really does help you be in the moment. Many times you have to be in the moment out of necessity.

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Viviana September 5, 2012 at 6:41 am

I just need to say that when you write ‘One thing I hope to learn while we travel is how to live in the moment.’, I can totally relate. That whole paragraph describes me, too. It’s good to see there are other people out there sharing this kind of feelings…
I hope we will both be able to learn what we want to while travelling.
Have more great days!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:58 am

Hi Viviana, we aren’t alone. I think there are many people struggling with this. Lots to learn in this world, no? Best wishes to you.

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Carmel September 5, 2012 at 7:39 am

Here’s another quote for you that I’ve been repeating in my head lately…”Let go or be dragged.” Supposedly it’s a Zen proverb…sounds pretty zen-like to me.

I experienced that challenge many times during my vacation last week. I knew being at the lake was exactly where I wanted to be, so I was trying my hardest to be fully present during even the most mundane things. Like anything worth doing, it’s a practice. Sounds like you’re getting the hang of it!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:59 am

Haha, that’s the damn truth! Yep, it is a life-long practice. I’m learning… slowly.

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cynthia September 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm

that IS awesome. :) all of it. i am loving following along with you guys.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:59 am

Thank you for following along Cynthia.

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manda September 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm

so jealous!! love the pics. place looks amazing!!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 6:59 am

SO AMAZING!!!!

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Kristin September 6, 2012 at 12:03 am

You brought me to tears too! I love the details you are sharing about your experiences and people as well as your personal thoughts and struggles. Captivating!

I remember watching a 60 minutes segment on some boat people who knew to go out to sea during the SE Asia tsunami and it was said they had no words for the future like tomorrow. No planning for lunch the next day, just I’m hungry now, guess I’ll fish. That’s unbelievable to me, but what an excellent way to live.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 7:00 am

Wow, really?!?! To have no words about the future… that’s amazing. What an excellent way to live. Can you imagine?

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Sarah Ram September 6, 2012 at 3:25 am

Hi Kim,
Yesterday I was in a clothes store, waiting for my son while he was trying on clothes, so I check my phone and see the latest post from you, and I read it there and then. I could feel the tears welling up, even before I got to the whales and felt so privilaged to be sharing these personal moments with you, a wide, wide world away, but a connection made possible by pure chance, and some wonderful technology! Thankyou!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 7:02 am

Sarah- THANK YOU!!! That honestly makes me grin ear to ear. I’m so happy that you are following along. I sometimes pinch myself that I have been lucky enough to find people that are willing to read what I write. It is an honor to be able to write for you.

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Aimi September 6, 2012 at 5:19 am

Wow – this post is so beautiful it almost made me cry too (but I’m at work, so I sucked it up). I got to see pilot whales last year on holiday and was really moved by the experience.

I am currently debating whether to jack it all in and go traveling for a few months, so I am loving reading your blog! Your personal thoughts and worries seem to be so similar to mine, and reading your posts is really helping me get my head clear about what I want to do and why I want to do it!

Thank you, and I hope your adventures continue to be fabulous.

Aimi x

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 7:04 am

Aimi, it is a personal decision so I won’t tell you what to do but I do want to say that every single worry and fear that i have before leaving (and there were too many to count) have vanished into thin air. I thank my lucky stars every day that I am out here living in the world. It’s the absolute best decision I ever made and I think the struggle to get here was so big because the payoff is also just as grand.

I bet deep down you know exactly what you should do. Once we begin to hear that voice it only gets louder. Much love to you!

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Shalini September 6, 2012 at 7:33 am

I am so glad you had an amazing time. Though I wish I could have sent you the extra motion sickness patches I have from my trip in June, pricey but worked wonders. I did the Northern island loop, but your words sum up exactly the way I felt while I was there. Thanks for helping me relive it on an overcast NYC day. Jealous of your shark spotting!!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 7:05 am

Next time we want to do the northern island loop… and go during the rainy season when everything is green. I bet it would be a totally different experience. We saw sharks on three or four days- it was unreal!

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Darcy @SustainableFamilyFinances September 6, 2012 at 8:21 am

Beautiful post Kim! I’ve always imagined having the chance to connect with dolphins :-)

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 7:05 am

Thanks Darcy- it’s not too late ;)

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Ayngelina September 6, 2012 at 9:19 am

Amazing photos, I think I need to seriously consider going down this winter.

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 7:05 am

Yessssss- do it!

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Rhonda September 6, 2012 at 11:21 am

What an amazing experience! I think, and certainly hope, that as your travels continue you will stop thinking as much in the future and truly focus on each moment and each day. That is all we’re truly guaranteed. Continue to inspire all of us along the way and thanks for the poem reference. I’m going to look it up right now!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 7:06 am

Thanks Rhonda. I’m trying… :)

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Dana - Our Wanderlust September 7, 2012 at 10:26 am

What an amazing post – thanks for sharing! Living in the moment is difficult for us too… traveling can make you feel like your always one step behind the next best thing… but moments like yours help us keep our focus on the now…so thanks! Happy Travels, can’t wait to hear more!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 7:07 am

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the next thing since there are SO MANY AMAZING THINGS TO DO!!!!!!

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Dani September 9, 2012 at 6:57 am

The Galapagos weren’t really on our list of places to see when we make it to South America (because we heard that it’s so expensive) but after reading your posts I really really want to go… would you mind telling me how much your cruise was so that I can get a rough idea of how much money we need to save? :) Thanks Kim!

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Kim September 9, 2012 at 7:11 am

Hey Dani!!

So, Brian and I paid $1200 each for the cruise and then $500 each to fly to the islands. So- $1700 each. It’s expensive but at least $1000 less pp than you would pay if you booked in advance. There are different classes of boats- tourist class is the cheapest and we weren’t on that. I think we were on the one above that and it was amazing. The food was great, the boat was in great condition, crew was fantastic, etc.

The cost didn’t include a few additional expensive- it is $100 pp to get a pass to enter the National Park (you pay this when you enter at the airport). We had to pay to rent our snorkel gear and wetsuits. Also, there was tip which was higher than we had anticipated (around $300 for the two of us). Of course tips are personal and you don’t have to but, you know, everyone worked hard.

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Dustin September 9, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Sorry to be crass, but have to make the joke. I love that the whale watching picture was taken by Brian (so I believe as I think you are on the right side of the pic). I too would be snapping a picture of the whale tail (minus pants) at that point :).

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Kim September 10, 2012 at 5:08 am

Haha, you are right… yep, I even thought about commenting on the blog about the european butt shot, but just let it be. ;)

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Michael Rudolph September 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed just your mention of San Cristobal, where I lived. I miss that place so much, and my heart ached knowing you must have walked past my host family’s home and the restaurants we frequented. Keep having fun!

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Kim September 24, 2012 at 6:57 pm

Oh, it was such a great little town- how lucky that you lived there!

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